It’s been a while.

If you’d like Frank and I to try to answer your question on the next podcast, submit it in this comment thread by Wednesday evening.

As always, try to keep it to one, answerable question.

61 Replies to “Submit Your Podcast Mailbag Questions Here”

  1. Are any steps being taken to indicate the length of the next Link train at the platform? With the current mix of 2 and 3 car trains it’s kind of a guessing game where to stand and wait.

    1. The smart folks stand where the rear of a 2-car train would be. If it’s 3-car you walk 10 feet and get in the front door of the 3rd car.

      1. In the tunnel, the platform ORCA readers seem to line up mid-car. So I stand a good 50ft back of the second car reader to hit the 2/3 sweet spot.

        Yet another reason why ORCA readers on the platform itself is a FEATURE not a bug.

  2. There’s never any talk of putting trains through the entire N/S corridor passing through the CD, Mad Valley, Leschi, Madrona. (really anything north of Beacon/Baker and east of I-5). This area seems ripe (especially with all the redevelopment on 23rd/Union, the new Vulcan project, etc) for something better than my much-beloved 48. Why is the area perpetually ignored? The only time this area gets any love is when people talk about the Metro 8 as a big maybe on ST4. Am I crazy? Is the CD just not dense enough?

  3. Is there any news on the slightly unconventional transit mode adds/extensions?

    – Monorail (add new stops on old line or build a new one)
    – Streetcar (extension to LQA or the stadiums)
    – Gondola

    There have been rumors of groups working toward another extension of some type (especially with the Stadium/Key arena fight going on) but it seems to quickly fade from view.

    Have you heard anything you haven’t been able to cover yet?

  4. Why hasn’t the building boom hit near Rainier Beach link station? How much of is it due to the factors outlined in the Erica Barnett article? Please discuss how much you think issues of race has to do with it?

    1. You must mean this article.

      Distance from downtown. Distance from Rainier Beach’s center. The lack of a compact center in Rainier Beach; it’s all kind of sprawling around the Safeway.

      The lots north and northwest of TIB (not the existing apartments but the strip malls) are also going slowly for much the same reason.

  5. Belltown was not only missing from ST3, but now is losing Route 99.

    What should be done to serve Belltown better, especially down the hill east of First Avenue? What is the best way to study and make recommendations to serve this area? Which agency should take the lead to address this, and what other agencies should be involved?

      1. The street grid in Belltown is at a 47 degree tilt from the compass, so what you really meant was south-west of First Ave.

    1. Belltown:
      D, E, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 24, 13, 33, 62
      Westlake Station is walking distance.
      Tons of local transit to get you to Westlake.
      It is only two blocks from 1st Ave to 3rd Ave.
      Don’t get me started on what suburban taxpayers get for their money.

      1. As a suburban taxpayer (who relied solely on Metro transit from 1989-2003 as a Seattle resident), I have to say amen to your comment.

    2. Western Avenue has a lot of midrise apartments, more than areas with transit. It’s surprising this hasn’t become a bigger issue. It’s a steep walk up to 3rd Avenue.

      1. Also a steep walk from the waterfront and the ferries! 1st/Western/Alaska to 3rd seems ripe for a local DART circulator bus (big articulated busses may have trouble fitting in some parts).

    3. How about trolley-wiring First Avenue between Virginia and Denny- in addition to replacing service that had been on Second Avenue for years. Not exactly a “shadow” connector. Though sharing substations and correctly wired, no reason streetcars and trolleybuses can’t share lanes. As they often do in San Francisco.

      Also, been looking at Waterfront transit possibilities. Existing excellent track and platforms, and full transit lane in which they sit ought to be a mark of shame remembered for the worst by the whole transit world. Want to look up latest Waterfront plans, and also the range of a new trolleybus on battery power.

      No reason it can’t cease to bring disgrace on both the number 99 and buses. While First Avenue gets wired its whole Downtown and Belltown length, if battery will handle, an existing route could run First to Virginia, drop poles, and motor north to Broad, down the Waterfront maybe to Spring or Madison, to rewire and go south on First.

      From Jackson to Virginia, relatively good access to the Waterfront. Through Belltown less so, though there’s an elevator and a bridge to Pier 66 at the end of Bell. Which is only a few blocks from the Victoria Ferry. For sake of both Belltown and the Waterfront, if batteries will handle, could provide necessary line haul transit.

      Battery power will also serve a really major problem for Waterfront electric transit: running electric across the massive BN tracks at the north end. Also, it’ll be possible to connect Seattle Center and Queen Anne Hill to the Waterfront too.

      Mark Dublin

  6. I’ll bite.

    Why hasn’t the U-District station construction web cam been updated? Its most recent date was July 25.

  7. Speculation on where Amazon HQ2 will locate. Commentary on which cities have the housing & transit infrastructure to absorb a whole Amazon would be great, but rampant, uninformed speculation is also welcome.

    1. Would an Everett or Tacoma location change assumptions about Link, other transit, and land use in the region? How?

      If Amazon chooses an out-of-state location, what will be the impact on rents, housing development, and the economy in Seattle and the region?

      1. I really think sudden decertaintizing with Amazon is the thing Seattle, the whole Central Puget Sound Region, and all their public transit needs most.

        I’m no Senator Lloyd Bentsen. So I don’t think Jeff Bezos will pout like VP candidate Dan Quayle about fact he isn’t Jack Kennedy, and is also proud of the fact he’s no Bill Boeing. Single-industry dependence is always risky and unhealthy.

        And I also think that with the exponentially uncertain future we’re looking at, we owe it to a hard-working billionaire to give him some help. And definitely sweeter DREAMS, some even PROGRESSIVE (posting on housing) for noting he’s not alone.

        Since this is earthquake-and tsunami- country, time that as a population, and as an industry, transit and its public has to develop some calming readiness. Specially want to see some flexibility brought into ST-3 thinking.

        If we have to do regional rapid transit in stages- are we ready? But also want discussion to start using the R-word a lot more. Dispersal with a purpose and a plan isn’t same as sprawl. I think that problems exactly like housing and transportation might be easier to solve on the regional level than local, county, or State.

        Since our region would probably be at least a couple of railroad-rich European countries, if not Europe, no question we could develop a similarly healthy and enjoyable signature way of life. Discussion?


      1. Seattle should make a pitch to be Amazon’s 2nd headquarters

        Wow, he’s spot on. We’ll be OK with or without Amazon2, but if Amazon2 doesn’t happen then we should prepare for other companies.

        “Right now, the number three city of the West Coast has considerably less population density than Boston, Philadelphia, DC, or even Providence, Rhode Island.”


        “King County, which contains the city itself, has only about a quarter the population density of Nassau County in the New York suburbs.”


        “The city should accept its own expert committee’s 2015 proposal to end single-family zoning,”

        That’s what we should be doing in the first place.

        ” The next step is for the city, state, and county government to come together and present an ambition plan for growth. Instead of the lavish tax subsidies other cities will offer, they should pitch the basic convenience of staying put being here and promise the investments and policy changes that Greater Seattle needs to grow alongside Amazon.” any companies.

  8. Is there any hope in sight for south sound commuters as far as improvements to Pierce Transit? Has the City of Tacoma considered going it alone to provide city transit? Is there another tax measure in the works for Pierce County? Tacoma Link extension is a nice amenity for a limited corridor through Stadium & Hilltop, but it doesn’t replace what should be a workhorse system of bus routes through the city.

  9. Sometimes I feel like I see Fare Enforcement Officers on every train I board, at other times I do not. These officers cannot be cheap – any guess if they cover their costs with the fines they issue (and hopefully collect) or if their costs are just built into the operating budget?

  10. Tacoma long range. What/where is the logical link spine extension beyond The dome? What is the potential of running DMUs from light rail alignment to ST-owned sounder segment. How to get downtown Tacoma better connected to Dome district? TOD plans around Dome? And EQC/Portland Ave.

    1. ST’s long-range plan says the spine will continue southwest to Tacoma Mall and that will be the final terminus. That was at the behest of the Pierce boardmembers and subarea. They’ve promised an urban village down there. It’s a southern counterpart to Everett Community College, the terminus Everett wants.

      1. Its crazy to me that the regional Link line will go to the Mall instead of Downtown (yes I know there is a dinky local streetcar link to Downtown), speaks to and reinforces the dominance of the mall over downtown which has been the story of Tacoma for over 50 years. They could rebuild the 2002 era Tacoma Link between the Dome and Downtown for Central Link trains and cut back Tacoma Link to just the route about to start construction.

    2. The mall area is ripe for redevelopment. If you want to spark new development, the Tacoma Mall is actually a good place for it. Think Ballard or South Lake Union a decade ago. Downtown Tacoma has a wealth of architecture and tearing it down for redevelopment wouldn’t necessarily be prudent. Tearing down the Tacoma Mall or one of the surrounding strip malls on the other hand…

      1. Downtown Tacoma has a wealth of empty lots and heavily altered single story buildings, there is ample space to densify without demolishing the historic buildings, hell they have a giant hideous parking garage in the heart of downtown that swallows up much of downtown. The Tacoma Mall location will never be pedestrian friendly and wont see more than a few podium projects with some nail salons on the first floor. Clearly this is a decision to focus future development away from the starving downtown to the mall.

      2. Tacoma wants both: large employers downtown, and a robust retail-centric urban village at Tacoma Mall. And development on MLK. As a city that’s what would bring the most jobs and prosperity and tax revenue. Whether the jobs and development will come is another story, one we don’t know yet. There are indications it could go either way. Building up all three areas may be too much, but one or two of them has more of a chance.

        I can’t speak for Tacoma’s leaders and I’ve only been there a few times over years, although I have older relatives who live there, but my impression is they see downtown as valuable and want to revive it (otherwise they wouldn’t have bothered with UW Tacoma and Tacoma Link), and they see Tacoma Mall as a place to dump PSRC-required growth, like Issaquah and Totem Lake and the Spring District. The spine not going downtown is a result of Tacoma’s weird geography, where downtown is out of the way in a penninsula. So Tacoma Link with more lines is for citywide transit, and the spine goes to the mall because it’s a straight direction and hooks up the mall to the region. So commuters to King County may gravitate to the mall area for living, while downtown people will get more people from other parts of Tacoma (and south King County).

  11. Any chance we could ever get ST3 projects funded faster by getting some of the big tech companies to buy bonds faster than bonds are currently sold right now? Or is there another limitation to bond sales that I am not aware of?

    1. I doubt the shareholders of Microsoft and Amazon would look favorably upon purchasing long-term municipal debt because it’s a nice thing to do. For starters, these firms don’t have billions of dollars laying around the United States (which is why they issue their own AAA rated debt to fund projects and acquisitions – it’s cheaper than issuing equity or repatriating overseas profits). They do maintain large treasury departments charged with cash management and generating an appropriate risk adjusted return, but the wholesale purchase of Sound Transit bonds is certainly not in the cards.

  12. Should we be worried about Cary Moon’s statement regarding Amazon HQ2? I’m a bit concerned about what it could indicate about how she values business growth in the city. Maybe it was a clumsy way of saying we’re not giving you tax incentives?

  13. The design proposals for the West Seattle light rail station seemed to want many features while preserving the “character” of the neighborhood. How much of these design proposals translate into actual Sound Transit station features?

  14. Any chance we could get transcripts of the podcasts at any point? I can’t handle watching video/listening to people speaking on audio 95% of the time so subtitles (if they exist? I don’t know) are useless to me, so I have to end up guessing what the content was from comments. They’re also good accommodation for screen reader utilizers (I’d be surprised if there weren’t a few followers of the blog that use those).

    1. I wrote a detailed description of the second podcast or so, partly to see how long it would take. It took three hours, which is too long for volunteers to do in their spare time for every podcast. That’s how the index evolved, timepoints with topic titles, so that people could find topics or a quote they wanted to listen to.

  15. Your thoughts on single family zoning reform in (central) Seattle? It’s striking to look at the zoning map and see SF5000 zones snaking all the way to 14th Ave in the CD ( What are the chances of comprehensive change to these zone definitions within our lifetimes? Say, an upzone to LR1 (lowrise) or allowing multiple units per house and loosening restrictions on ADUs – Vancouver, BC style.

  16. Thanks for doing this.

    Could you list the *legal* hurdles in the way of putting cameras on buses, taking picture of, and ticketing bus lane violators? Political hurdles I think I understand, but what are the structural barriers in place?

  17. Any walkability/bikeability/traffic calming improvements coming to NE 45th ST? There will be a lot more pedestrian and bicycle traffic when the U-District Link station opens. Right now we’ve got sharrows on a 4-lane road with a median turn lane that is used for I-5 access. Sharrows should only be used on low traffic residential streets not I-5 access corridors with transit stations!

  18. Are there a community/advocacy groups that you know of that could apply pressure on UW/Metro/SDOT/Sound Transit to come up with better solutions to mitigate the impact that UW football games have on transit riders whose destinations depend on connections through UW station? I can generate data that quantifies the impact in an objective way, but blasting data into the aether is (unfortunately) not a recipe for causing institutional change, especially when a solution would likely involve coordination between multiple agencies.


    1. STB’s page 2 is good, especially if you want to advocate for things during Metro’s planning process for route restructuring.

      There will be a huge opportunity when north Seattle is restructured after Northgate Link opens. If you want to minimize the impact of UW football games, advocate for shifting most transfers away from UW station and towards U District or Roosevelt stations.

  19. Do you ever make corrections or address clarifications for previous podcasts? For example, these are just a few I jotted down during your last podcast in the section about the Lynnwood Link announcement:

    — Tree Mitigation program. The bulk of the proposed plantings are in the WSDOT ROW. 53,000 of the 66,900 (79%)
    — ST has the same eminent domain authority as cities of the first class under WA statutes
    — The ST narrative that the 2005 cost estimate for Lynnwood Link (which wasn’t even known as that, rather as the North Corridor HCT project and included two additional stations beyond the LTC) was $2.4 billion is simply false. Obviously the agency has its reasons for pushing this narrative.

    Those were just a few.

    1. We don’t really have a policy, but if you could clarify your corrections, we might:

      — Tree Mitigation program. The bulk of the proposed plantings are in the WSDOT ROW. 53,000 of the 66,900 (79%)

      Did we say something contradictory?

      — ST has the same eminent domain authority as cities of the first class under WA statutes

      That might be, but it’s clear that the cities have leverage through their permitting authority. That’s the point I was making.

      — The ST narrative that the 2005 cost estimate for Lynnwood Link (which wasn’t even known as that, rather as the North Corridor HCT project and included two additional stations beyond the LTC) was $2.4 billion is simply false. Obviously the agency has its reasons for pushing this narrative.

      Can you provide a link substantiating that claim?

      1. Regarding the tree mitigation issue. You slid into this topic of discussion when you were doing a little bit of scapegoating of the cities “wanting ornaments off the Xmas tree” (to paraphrase). I think it came across as, one, making light of the mitigation issue, and, two, that it is the cities that are responsible for this $32 million add-on.

        Regarding the 2005 cost estimate for Lynnwood Link that’s not a straightforward process to uncover because of the evolution of the project since those early planning days. You have to review multiple documents to see this evolution from the North Corridor HCT Planning studies to what is now referred to as Lynnwood Link. But for the sake of simplicity, take a look at the 2010 TIP. This segment is estimated at $1,464,800,000 (in 2009$). If you add in the entire estimated costs of the planned Link Maintenance & Storage Facility ($261m) and the entire ST2 Link Fleet Expansion ($534m), you get to some $2.60b, not including financing costs ( like in the New Starts application). Of course this project would only be allocated a portion of the fleet expansion and maintenance facility capital costs, not the entire $800 million.

        Finally, Rod Kempkes, the Lynnwood Link Executive Project Director, stated in his presentation to the ST board on Aug 24th (I think that was the date), that the estimate was from 2005!

  20. Also, in light of the recent news about the Lynnwood Link costs/delay, perhaps you could discuss the overall cost estimation that ST has put out per their annual TIP. I don’t find it just coincidental that the projections changed dramatically from 2016 (prior to the ST3 vote) to those released with the 2017 TIP.

    Here’s how it lays out from what I’ve been able to research:

    2016 TIP (in 000’s, 2015$):

    2008 Total Link Light Rail Estimate 9,419,351
    2015 Estimate 8,139,844
    2016 Estimate 8,158,039

    2017 TIP (in 000’s, 2016$):

    2008 Total Light Rail Estimate 9,996,443 (+$577m or 6.1% from prior year)
    2016 Estimate 8,918,621
    (+$760m or 9.3% from prior year)
    2017 Estimate 9,062,626

    It’s interesting that these are the largest year over year increases ever shown on the annual TIPs for the ST2 projects and they come AFTER the vote on ST3. Hmmmm.

    Also, I was under the impression that the 2008 cost estimate was only being adjusted annually for inflation factors. Obviously there is something else going on here.

    To put things into perspective, the 2010 TIP shows the 2008 cost estimate at $8,340,300 in 2009$.

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